What is Digital Marketing

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It’s almost impossible to accurately summarize digital marketing in a sentence or two. In fact, to best understand digital marketing, you have to first understand marketing as a whole.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

The industry experts and authorities applied this idea to the digital environment to develop their own approaches to digital marketing concepts. Philip Kotler—recognized as the father of modern marketing—defines digital marketing in his book Principles of Marketing as:

Digital Marketing is a form of direct marketing which links consumers with sellers electronically using interactive technologies like emails, websites, online forums and newsgroups, interactive television, mobile communications, etcetera.

In a similar way, although appealing to traditional marketing, Norman A. Govoni, marketing professor at Babson College and author of the book Dictionary of Marketing Communications, defines online marketing as:

Online marketing is a type of marketing that combines traditional marketing principles and practices with the interactive features of the Internet, for the purpose of delivering need-satisfying products and services to consumers.

While these experts offer a base definition of digital marketing, in order to have an accurate idea of ​​the concept it's important to know how this new way of marketing was born and what advantages it can offer to your business.

How Digital Marketing was Born

The Internet is part of your daily life and it's almost impossible not to leave a digital trail or have an online identity today. It's not strange that business and corporate communication are a part of this new digital universe.

The digital marketing industry has experienced rapid growth since its beginnings. If you look at the historical data from IAB's study on advertising income on the Internet, in the United States, online advertising revenues in 2006 were $16,879 but reached $72,521 in 2016. This shows that the industry quadrupled in only 10 years.

This rapid growth of the digital marketing industry is a direct consequence of the global phenomenon of the Internet and new technologies that have marked the social and economic transformation of the 21st century. This makes it impossible to talk about digital marketing without taking into account the evolution of this phenomenon.

A Brief History: The evolution of the web and new technologies

The term digital marketing was first used in the 1990s. At that time, the website showed mainly static content with very few interactive elements—there weren't even real online communities. This stage is known as Web 1.0.

The modern age of the Internet began when Google started its growth and launched Blogger in 1999. However, it was the introduction of the Google Ads platform that really boosted its growth—so much so that it's still its main source of revenue today.

The progressive introduction of interactive elements in web development that allowed more and more participation and conversation among users came about in 1999. At that time, Darcy DiNucci began to refer to this as Web 2.0 but the term didn’t take hold until 2004 when Tom O'Reilly popularized it. Web 2.0 ushered in the first online communities and allowed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media platforms to come about soon after.

The next great innovation was the first modern smartphone made by BlackBerry in 2003. In addition to allowing Internet browsing, making calls and sending text messages, it introduced mobile email for the first time.

Email became a new marketing tool to be used alongside traditional media, such as television, radio, print advertising or telephone sales. Meanwhile, search engines allowed users to find information about products and services they wanted without leaving their home.

For marketing, all these technological advances represented a gold mine and a great opportunity for growth, which it's taken advantage of.

Even with this information, if you don't have a technical background, the world of digital marketing may still seem a bit overwhelming to you. At this point, it's worth remembering a great phrase from Damian Ryan’s and Calvin Jones’s book Understanding Digital Marketing: Marketing Strategies for Engaging the Digital Generation:

Digital marketing is not about understanding the underlying technology, but rather about understanding people, how they’re using that technology, and how you can leverage that to engage with them more effectively.

Ryan and Jones believe that you must learn to use the tools at your fingertips but that understanding people is the real key to unlocking the potential of digital marketing.

The 3 Phases of Marketing Evolution

Now that you understand the evolution of digital marketing from a technological point of view, you can begin to look at it from a marketing perspective. Currently, there are three stages recognized in its evolution:

  1. Marketing 1.0 or Product-centric Marketing: In the origins of the marketing business, and for many years, advertising focused only on the product, objectively highlighting its qualities. This stage coincided with a time when consumption was lower, social classes were more defined, competition between brands was low, communication channels were scarce and very massive and few brands had sufficient budgets to access them.

  2. Marketing 2.0 or Customer-oriented Marketing: When competition and consumption began to increase, brands had to find new ways to differentiate themselves as highlighting the virtues of their products was no longer enough. In addition, the appearance of new communication channels caused the audience to disintegrate. The objective of marketing in this second stage was to achieve consumer satisfaction through the creation of emotional bonds. The advertising messages put aside the rational benefit and began to look for subjectivity and evocation. It was about selling sensations.

  3. Marketing 3.0 or Values-driven Marketing: This is the new and current dimension of marketing. In the wake of the rise of new technologies and the Internet, and the breakdown of all communication barriers, unidirectional messages have become direct dialogues between customers and brands. This has completely changed the concept of advertising. It's a new marketing model that no longer focuses on consumers, but on people. The main difference in this change of concept is that the new marketing focuses on offering identity traits and values ​​to people.

Digital Marketing: The conversion funnel

To deepen what digital marketing is, bear in mind that users follow a purchasing process known as the funnel or conversion funnel. It's a term that's used in digital marketing to define the different phases that a user goes through from the first contact he has with a brand until he completes a defined goal.

That goal can be a registration, a purchase, the generation of a lead or anything you see as your end game.The funnel can help you create an image of what actions you should take and what channels you can use in each phase to take users to the next one. It can also show you what percentage of users are leaving the process in each step (it's natural that everyone won’t be interested in your product or service). The funnel concept will show you that you might have a large number of users who start the process but only a minority who will complete the whole process.

If you investigate a little on Google, you'll see that there are several types of funnels with more or fewer phases.

In Kolau, we believe that the perfect conversion funnel has five phases.

  Phase 1: Consideration  

In this phase, your business is completely unknown to users. You must create content focused on attracting visitors to your website and help them identify needs that you can resolve with your products or services. Even if they don’t have a known need for your business, creating good content can create that need in them. Content should be valuable, attractive and interesting, with the aim of generating confidence and positioning yourself as a reliable company.

The channels or online tools that you can use in this phase are:

  • Search engines: You can get immediate visibility through ads with Google Ads (for more information on creating Google Ads campaigns, take a look at this article on how to create Google Ads campaigns. You can also get long-term results through organic SEO placement (the pages that appear under the ads and that have been positioned naturally in the Google search pages). According to HubSpot, 61 percent of marketers say that their main priority is to improve SEO and their organic presence. With marketers spotlighting this as a priority, it’s something that your business can’t overlook.

  • Social media: Users can find you through publications or ads on social media platforms. According to a report on the social media marketing industry published by Social Media Examiner, 89 percent of marketing specialists say that their efforts in social media have generated more exposure for their businesses.

  • Blogs: If you have a corporate blog, you must create useful and valuable content for your target audience. It's not enough to talk about the advantages of your products or services. You also have to optimize it on an SEO level so that users can find your blog when they perform a Google search. According to HubSpot, companies that published more than 16 blog posts per month obtained almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published four or less monthly posts. You can also collaborate with third-party blogs related to the theme of your product or service to expand your visibility on the web.

  • Online press: Online public relations can also be a key piece in your digital marketing strategy. You can contact journalists by phone and/or email and send them press releases in order to appear in a main online newspaper. It's a good channel to get quality inbound links to your website and, thus, improve your organic positioning.

 Phase 2: Decision making 

In this phase, the user's already visited your website. This now becomes the most important step: you have to start preparing the sale. Here, you must be very clear about the interests of your visitors and explain through your content why they should choose you and not the competition.

Your objective at this point will be to get leads. Leads are when your potential customers give you their email. This enables you to establish direct and personalized contact with them later on. You can ask for information—contact data, for example—in exchange for more concrete, more exclusive and more valuable content like an eBook or a free online seminar.

If you conduct an online advertising campaign to obtain leads either through Google Ads or on social media, it's very effective to create specific landing pages for your ads with a form that the user can fill out to contact your company, request a quote or download your application.

You must ensure that your landing pages are simple and intuitive with as little text as possible. As demonstrated by a study conducted by Microsoft Corp., people have shorter attention spans than a fish. They lose concentration after eight seconds because of the effects of an increasingly digitized lifestyle.

Below you can see an example of a landing page that has all the features necessary to achieve a successful lead:

  1. No navigation elements or menu

  2. Clear and striking title

  3. Visual and relevant content

  4. Simple form with as few fields as possible

  5. Visible button with CTA

It's also recommended to perform A/B tests to test the effectiveness of your landing page and detect which elements work best. To carry out an A/B test you have to create a variation of your original landing page (vary only the text, only the images or just the number of fields in the form, for example) and see which one gets better results after a significant period of time. Pick the best one based on the results. You can repeat the process as many times as necessary by varying a different element in each one - as a matter of fact, A/B tests are meant to be permanent and ongoing.

 Phase 3: Purchase 

It's time to close the sale. At this point, only users who really have an interest in your product or service remain, so you must take the final step to convert the sale. Offering free samples or tests, demos, initial discounts or personalized consultancies can help you do this.

In this phase, the web and email are the key channels or tools that will help you apply your sales strategies. Many times, it's about offering “candy,” something that encourages a purchase.

The online sportswear store, Planet Sports, offers a €10 coupon to all users who register for their newsletter. This information is on every page of the company’s website in the form of a pop-up window at the bottom with a very simple but effective form. On the form, the user is asked to indicate whether they are male or female while also being asked to subscribe to the newsletter.

This window isn’t intrusive on the layout of the page as it doesn’t pop up until the visitor clicks on the tab for the offer.

With this form, the store not only gets leads but also entices users to buy thanks to the €10 coupon.

 Phase: Retention 

In this phase, you've already attracted the first customers. One of the great differences of inbound marketing compared to traditional marketing is that the work doesn't end with the closing of the sale.

Next, analyse each sale to better define the profile of each of your customers. See how their purchase process was, what they purchased and work to build customer loyalty based on that information keeping one goal in mind: get them to buy something from you.

It's time to apply sales strategies such as cross-selling, up-selling or next-selling. For this, email is the best tool. According to an eMarketer study, 80 percent of professionals in retail indicate that email marketing is the main driver of customer retention followed by social media which was identified as a retention tool by 44 percent of those same professionals.

For example, Kolau offers a points program based on gamification with the aim of achieving customer loyalty. Through this program, every time clients reach a goal in the Kolau platform to increase their web traffic they get points that can then be exchanged for exclusive products and services from Google and Kolau.

 Phase 5: Recommendations 

You've already acquired loyal customers who repeatedly make purchases. Now is the time to turn every purchase into a recommendation to others.

When your clients become prescribers, you get new users to enter your funnel. The process then begins again.

Nowadays, the businesses that succeed are those that have managed to build a loyal community around them.

This is something that's only achieved by making the relationship between the brand and consumer go beyond a commercial exchange. Email marketing and social media are again playing a decisive role in this last phase of the funnel. Through these two channels, you can establish direct and personalized communication with your customers.

There are also other strategies, such as recommendations programs.

Dropbox is the best example of a successful recommendations program. They've managed to move from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in 15 months.

What's their strategy? They offer an exclusive benefit. In this case, the benefit is the possibility of getting more storage space. Clients that recommend the service and introduce new users to the platform will be offered a chance to increase their storage plan when they recommend Dropbox to other people. Similarly, the new users will get their own offer for using that referral.


To be successful in your digital marketing strategy, your brand must have its own soul and you must know how to listen to your audience before you speak. Build a brand image where you share or represent values, ideas or a way of understanding life with your customers. When you do that, your audience defines themselves and you make yourself known to them through your efforts. This creates a community around your brand.

As you can now see, digital marketing doesn't solely consist of using the Internet and the latest technological applications to launch advertising messages. Instead:

Digital Marketing is about analysing and understanding how people use new technologies to find the best way to communicate with them as a brand.

With this information under your belt, you can launch a successful digital marketing campaign for your company and improve both the customer acquisition and retention.


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